Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nikolas Copernicus the Astronomer

Copernicus (February 14, 1473 – May 24, 1543) was not only a great astronomer, but also a painter and philosopher. Mankind should ever be grateful to the Polish astronomer Nikolas Copernicus, for giving the right answer to the riddle of the universe.

Copernicus and Columbus were contemporaries. While Columbus was discovering a new continent, Copernicus propounded a new theory of the universe.

Before Copernicus, the prevalent astronomical belief was that the earth was the centre of the universes and the sun and other stars and planets revolved round the earth.

After 30 years of study and without the help of even a telescope — the telescope was invented much later — Copernicus put forward his theory that the earth moved round the sun, like a top spinning on its own axis and along an oval orbit and the moon moved around the earth. Other planets like Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, Venus, Mercury and so on moved around the sun, which was the centre of our universe.

Some foolish contemporaries of Copernicus ridiculed his findings and sent clowns to villages to tell the people of the immovable earth and the moving sun — “things which any fool can see” — and laugh at Copernicus, “the crazy priest” who said that the earth moved and the sun stood still. Copernicus was not angry with his critics. He said: “Let them be. The movement of the heavenly bodies will be influended not in the least either by ridicule or by the respect of these foolish men.”

Copernicus, the great astronomer, had also tried his hand at painting, philosophy and medicine. He was a repository of kindness and wisdom

Take care of trees…they take care of you!

The number of cities across the world with five million or more inhabitants is projected to rise from 46 in 2003, to 61 in 2015. Obviously, a developing country like India with a population of approximately 1.13 billion is not far behind. Never before in time has our urban environment been in such a precarious state, with such immense pressure on its resources – air, water and soil. And it is certainly time we realized the vital role well grown, healthy trees play in restoring a beneficial balance. In fact, a tree is probably the only investment a city makes that increases over time!

Unfortunately, towns and cities have not been designed by the laws of nature, but by the law of human supply and demand. Trees are included as amenities and are established in an artificial habitat that usually falls short of supplying basic needs. In this setting, trees are further stressed by pollutants and by human-inflicted injuries.

It is necessary to give trees in cities special care, not only for their survival and wellbeing but also to protect people and property from the hazards trees can become in a hostile environment.
The urban underground habitat is particularly ill-suited for healthy tree growth. The soil is typically a mixture of subsoil, and construction waste, compacted to a density that eliminates 80 to 90 per cent of the soil porosity through which air and water must move. Drainage is frequently so poor that routine irrigation leads to a waterlogged environment in which the roots are unable to grow. The nutrient level may be too low for normal tree growth or too high in sodium or trace chemicals, making them toxic to trees.

Saplings are planted close to concrete surfaces and are routinely installed near established trees. Compacted soil conditions, and too little or no watering encourage tree-root growth close to the surface, forcing the roots to grow near buildings and sidewalks. As a result, when the man-made structure becomes damaged, the roots are cut back or the tree is removed.
The urban habitat can be just as harsh. Overhead utility lines, buildings, and traffic-ways often occupy the space into which a tree’s branches normally grow. The consequent clearance pruning is often performed with little regard for the tree’s structure or health.

Trees next to buildings can be shaded most of the day or subjected to a lot of sun! Trees that cannot develop a normal root system may fall down, or their roots may strangle one another.

Volcanoes In other planets

Volcanic features aren’t exclusive to our planet. Our satellite, the moon, exhibits volcanic features, as does Io, a Jovian satellite (one of the moons of the planet Jupiter). So do other planets in our solar system, most notably Mars and Venus.

The volcanic features on Mars are similar in shape to those on Earth. Scientists suspect that they were probably formed by similar processes, and that volcanism has been significant throughout Martian history. However, it is interesting to note that they also feel there is no geological evidence yet of recent plate tectonic motion such as that on Earth.

Scientists have identified more than 1700 volcanic centres on Venus. The craters vary greatly in size, shape, and eruptive activity.

Undoubtedly the most spectacularly volcanic planetary body is Io, the moon closest to the giant planet Jupiter. In 1979, images from the Voyager 1 spacecraft arrived on Earth. They showed active volcanic plumes rising up to 300 km above this tiny moon’s surface. The surface is pockmarked with volcanic centres, and at least around 70 of these are active.One of the foremost researchers in the field of planetary geology was Dr. Eugene Shoemaker. He helped map the surface of the moon. You can't beat a good euphonious

Tiger alert

A few years ago, the Sariska tiger reserve was faced with a great tragedy when the entire population of tigers was wiped out. This year, in a groundbreaking effort to preserve the species, an endangered Bengal tiger was relocated to the Sariska tiger reserve. The young male tiger was airlifted from the Ranthambore tiger reserve by the Government of Rajasthan and the Central Government with the help of WWF for Nature. The tiger is in good health and appears to be adapting to his new surroundings. More tigers are expected to be introduced in the near future.

“Tiger numbers are dwindling at an alarming rate and it is imperative we take action now to keep them from disappearing altogether,” said Sybille Klenzendorf, director of WWF’s Species Conservation Programme. There may be as few as 1,400 wild tigers remaining in India and fewer than 4,000 wild tigers left in the world.

Populations are fast declining due to poaching — killing for their skin and parts — and habitat loss. This relocation is the first of its kind in India and a testimony to the government’s intent to preserve the iconic species.

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